French Violin Makers, German Violin Makers, English Violin Makers, Antonio Stradivari
Italian Violin Makers
noticed that the sound-holes are set nearer the edge than is the case in the instruments of either of the makers named. Taken as a whole, Bergonzi's design is rich in artistic feeling, and one which he succeeded in treating with the utmost skill.
Carlo Bergonzi furnishes us with another example of the extensive research with which the great Cremonese makers pursued their art, and a refutation of the common assertion that these men worked and formed by accident rather than by judgment. The differences of the two makers mentioned above, as regards form, are certainly too wide to be explained away as a mere accident. It is further necessary to take into consideration the kind of tone belonging to these instruments respectively. If Bergonzi's instruments be compared with those of his master, Stradivari, or of Guarneri del Gesù, the appreciable difference to be found will amount to this, that in Bergonzi's instruments there is a just and exact combination of the qualities of both the other two makers named. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to conclude that Carlo Bergonzi was fully alive to the merits of both Stradivari and Guarneri, and deliberately set himself to construct a model that should embrace in a measure the chief characteristics of both of them?
The scroll is deserving of particular attention. It is quite in keeping with the body of the instrument, and has been cut with a decision of purpose that could only have been possessed by a master. It is flatter than usual, if we trace it from the cheek towards the turn, and is strikingly bold. Here, again, is the portrait of the character of the maker. Although by a pupil of Antonio Stradivari, the scroll is thoroughly distinct from any known production of that maker—it lacks his fine finish and exact proportion; but, on the other hand, it has an originality about it which is quite refreshing. The prominent feature is the ear of the scroll, which being made to stand forth in bold relief, gives it a broad appearance when looked at from the front.
The work of Bergonzi, as has been the case with many of his class, has been attributed to others. Many of his instruments are dubbed "Joseph Guarneri," a mistake in identification which arises chiefly from the form of the sound-hole at the upper and lower portions. There is little else that can be considered as bearing any resemblance whatever to the work of Guarneri, and even in this case the resemblance is very slight. Bergonzi's outline is totally different from that of Guarneri, and is so distinct and telling that it is sure to impress the eye of the experienced connoisseur when first seen.
The varnish of Bergonzi is often fully as resplendent as that of Giuseppe Guarneri or Stradivari, and shows him to have been initiated in the mysteries of its manufacture. It is sometimes seen to be extremely thick, at other times but sparingly laid on; often of a deep, rich red colour, sometimes of a pale red, and again, of rich amber, so that the variation of colour to be met with in Bergonzi's Violins is considerable. We must concede that his method of varnishing was scarcely so painstaking as that of his fellow-workers, if we judge from the clots here and there, particularly on the deep-coloured instruments; but, nevertheless, now that age has toned down the varnish, the effect is good.
Carlo Bergonzi lived next door to Stradivari, and I believe the house remained in the family until a few years since, when it was disposed of.
Lancetti remarks: "From want of information, we have forgotten in the second volume"—referring to his "Biographical Dictionary," part of which was printed in 1820—"to include an estimable maker named Carlo Bergonzi, who was pupil of Stradivari, and fellow-workman with his sons. From the list of names and dates collected by Count Cozio, it appears that Carlo Bergonzi worked by himself from 1719 to 1746. He used generally very fine foreign wood, and a varnish the quality of that of his master." In the collection of Count Cozio di Salabue, there were two Violins by Bergonzi, dated 1731 and 1733, and a Violoncello, 1746. We have in this country two remarkable Violoncellos of this maker. The perfect and unique Double Bass which Vuillaume purchased of the executors of Luigi Tarisio is now in the possession of the family of the late Mr. J. M. Sears, of Boston, U.S.
Michael Angelo Bergonzi Figlio di
Carlo fece in Cremona l'Anno 17—
BERGONZI, Michel Angelo, Cremona, 1730-60. Son of Carlo. The pattern of his instruments is somewhat varied. Many are large, and others under-sized. The varnish is hard, and distinct from that associated with Cremonese instruments.
Nicolaus Bergonzi Cremonensis
faciebat Anno 17—